2023’s Best Rewards Credit Cards

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Credit card rewards come in many forms, and they all exist to provide incentives to use credit rather than cash or a debit card. Here you’ll find a selection of the very best reward cards that offer points for purchases. You’ll also find out about a variety of other cards that have other benefits along with their rewards.

Best Pick For: General Travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a much-loved travel credit card, popular for its transfer partners and benefits.

It offers a great introductory bonus, plus the points you earn can be transferred at a 1:1 rate to a variety of airlines and hotels. That gives you the flexibility to redeem points with your favorite travel brands.

Ultimate Rewards points are typically worth 1 cent each, but you’ll get a 25% point bonus if you redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal. That would give you 1.25 cents per point.

But the more valuable way to use your points is to transfer them to a partner loyalty program, where they could be worth as much as 2 cents per point or more. That means you get a cash back equivalent of 4% on all other travel purchases.

Runners-Up

  • American Express® Gold Card
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
  • American Express® Green Card

Best Pick For: Flat-Rate Travel Rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Flat-rate cards offer the same spending reward for every purchase. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a hefty welcome bonus to go along with a good deal on general spending.

Your miles are worth 1 cent each when redeeming for travel purchases. But you can also transfer them to a selection of airline partners where they might be worth more than that.

If you’re getting 1 cent per point, you’d get a cash back equivalent of 2% back on all spending. If you get a good value by transferring your rewards, like 2 cents per point, you’d be earning the equivalent of 4% cash back on all purchases.

Runners-Up

  • Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Best Pick For: Travel Rewards With No Annual Fee

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is the top no annual fee travel card. That’s because in addition to offering a decent reward rate for every purchase you make, you can transfer your miles to a variety of airline partners.

It can help you travel for free without putting an extra strain on your wallet, as long as you avoid interest and other fees.

The miles you earn with this card are typically worth 1 cent each, unless you transfer them to an airline partner where they could be worth more.

If you’re getting the standard 1 cent per point, you’ll be earning a cash back equivalent of 1.25%, which is kind of mediocre.

If you get a good point transfer deal, and get 2 cents per point for example, you’d be getting a cash back equivalent of 2.5% everywhere you spend. That’s a much better deal, of course, so aim for high-value point redemptions through transfers.

Runners-Up

  • Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card from Chase
  • Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card

Best Pick For: Premium Travel Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Frequent travelers can get a lot out of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Cardholders enjoy an excellent rewards rate on travel and dining, valuable travel benefits that are easy to take advantage of and diverse travel partners for point transfers.

Take note that you’ll only begin earning points on travel after you use up the entire $300 travel credit.

The best point values will come from point transfers to partner airlines and hotels. These could yield 2 cents per point or more, depending on the deal you choose, which would give you a cash back equivalent of at least 6% on travel and dining and 2% everywhere else.

Runner-Up

  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

Best Pick For: Premium Travel Rewards and Airport Lounge Access

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express is the king of travel perks. Not only will its rewards program earn you a high rate for eligible travel expenses, you’ll also get the best airport lounge access available on a card and a variety of credits that can potentially offset the high annual fee completely.

Point transfers could provide 2 cents per point or quite a bit more. At those rates you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of 10% or more in the 5X spending categories, which is quite a deal. You’ll also get a 4% cash back equivalent on other eligible purchases from Amex Travel, and 2% for everything else.

You’ll want to save up your points until you can get a good point transfer deal, because otherwise your points are only worth a maximum of 1 cent each (and that’s just for eligible flight redemptions). Statement credits will only provide 0.6 cents per point, so definitely avoid using that redemption option.

Runner-Up

  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Best Pick For: No Annual Fee

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

There aren’t many general-use point cards without annual fees, but the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is our pick for number one. This card offers a way to get Amex Membership Rewards® points without paying an annual fee.

Not only will you get a point bonus for using the card more, you’ll also enjoy a long promotional APR period for purchases.

It has a rare feature that rewards you more for spending more often – Make 20 or more purchases in a billing period to get a 20% bonus on the eligible points you earned.

That would give you a total of 2.4X points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets, and 1.2X points everywhere else.

Runner-Up

  • Blue Cash EveryDay® Card from American Express

Best Pick For: Business Travel Rewards

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

You can’t beat The Business Platinum Card® from American Express when it comes to business rewards cards. Amex raised the annual fee recently, but you’ll still have all the same benefits, plus some more that could be very useful for some businesses.

Amex Membership Rewards® points are best used for point transfers to partner airlines and hotels, where the value you get will depend on how you redeem them.

If you get 2 cents per point, a pretty good rate, you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of 10% in the 5X categories, which is quite good. And you’d be earning a 3% cash back equivalent on purchases of $5,000 or more, but you may want to use a different card that earns more rewards for those purchases.

Runners-Up

  • Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
  • Capital One Spark 2X Miles for Business
  • Capital One Spark 1.5X Miles Select for Business
  • Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
  • Brex Card (paid daily)
  • Brex Card (paid monthly)

Best Pick For: Varied Business Spending

American Express® Business Gold Card

If you expect your business expenses to change from month to month or you’re never quite sure what they’ll be, the American Express® Business Gold Card could be the perfect card for you.

It provides 4X points in the two categories (out of six) your business spends the most in each month. This lets you earn points at a high rate even with unpredictable spending patterns.

The value of your Amex Membership Rewards® points will depend on how you redeem them. Point transfers can provide the highest rate per point, but you’ll typically need to do a bit of searching to find good deals.

You may get 2 cents per point or more through transfers. At that rate, you’d be earning a cash back equivalent of at least 8% in the 4X categories and 4% in the 2X categories. That’s a solid return on your purchases. The fact that this card adjusts for your spending as it changes makes it all the better.

Runners-Up

  • The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
  • Capital One Spark 2X Miles for Business
  • Capital One Spark 1.5X Miles Select for Business
  • Brex Card (paid daily)
  • Brex Card (paid monthly)

Best Pick For: Dining Out and Groceries

American Express® Gold Card

If food is your thing, the American Express® Gold Card might be your card.

You’ll earn points at a high rate at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets, which is rare. Tou usually only see one of these categories at a time, or one is significantly better than the other. And you can also use some cost-saving benefits each year to help offset the annual fee.

This might not seem like a travel card from the spending rewards, but it has a few benefits that make it suited for that purpose. In particular, the best way to redeem your Amex Membership Rewards® points is through point transfers to partner airlines and hotels.

You can get upwards of 2 cents per point, depending on how you redeem. That would give you a cash back equivalent of 8% at U.S. supermarkets and U.S. restaurants, which is probably the best you’ll currently find on any card.

Runners-Up

  • Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
  • Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

Best Pick For: Students

Bank of America Travel Rewards® Credit Card for Students

College students could do worse than the Bank of America Travel Rewards® Credit Card for Students, a solid travel card with no annual fee.

Best Pick For: Introductory Bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Getting a lot of points fast can be exciting. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can give you a wealth of Ultimate Rewards points in your first few months, enough for a trip or two (or even three) depending on how you use them.

Redemptions for travel expenses through Ultimate Rewards will give you 1.25 cents per point. But to get the most of your bonus, transfer your points to a partner airline or hotel you plan to book.

That could give you 2 cents per point or more, leading to a much bigger bang for your buck.

Runners-Up

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
  • IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Best Pick For: Airline Miles

United Club℠ Infinite Card

Airline credit cards typically offer the same kinds of perks – free checked bags, priority boarding, in-flight discounts, and maybe even lounge access.

You’ll get all that with the United Club℠ Infinite Card, plus more. You’ll get quite a few more miles than United flyers who aren’t cardholders, and you’ll enjoy access to perks that typically take a lot of flights or spending to earn.

Runners-Up

  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card 
  • Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Priority Card

Best Pick For: Hotel Rewards

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card

Looking for a way to upgrade your next trip? A hotel credit card can do just that, by bumping up your member status and providing free nights, among other perks.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card is one of the best. It features a big boost to the points you’ll earn for every stay, a free night every year after your cardmember anniversary and solid airport lounge access.

Runners-Up

  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
  • The World of Hyatt Credit Card

Best Pick For: Gas

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is one of your best options for cash back on gas, with a solid rate for no annual fee. If you’re willing to pay an annual fee or don’t mind rotating bonus categories, you’ll find some interesting options in the runners-up.

Runners-Up

  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  • Discover it® Cash Back
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠
  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
  • Sam’s Club® Mastercard®
  • Discover it® chrome

Best Pick For: Groceries

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Groceries and gas are common expenses for many people, so it’s convenient to have one card you can use for both. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is an excellent choice to fill that need, with the best cash back rate for U.S. supermarkets you’ll find.

The 6% back you can earn at U.S. supermarkets with this card is the best base rate we’ve seen for that category. You can get 10% with the Discover it® Cash Back, but only for a few months during the first year with the card.

You’ll be limited to $6,000 in spending per year at that 6% rate, but that’s still $360 in cash back, which is not bad at all. To hit that limit in a year you’d need to spend about $115 on groceries per week.

Purchases at U.S. gas stations will get 3% cash back, with no limit. That’s competitive with most other rewards cards, which don’t usually offer any more than that at gas stations.

Runners-Up

  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express 
  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Card
  • Discover it® Cash Back
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠

Best Pick For: Dining at Restaurants

Capital One Savor Rewards Credit Card

Going out to eat is a bit more fun when you can hand over a shiny credit card. The Capital One Savor Rewards Credit Card can fit that bill and offers an excellent cash back rate at restaurants, along with some useful bonus categories that complement the foodie aura this card exudes.

If you’re always going out to eat or ordering in, how does saving 4% on all that spending sound? Good enough that you might just fight over who gets to pay the bill.

The Savor’s categories cover dining, entertainment, and grocery shopping. That’s quite a nice variety to have on just one card. If dinner and a movie is your kind of thing, this card would fit quite well. And if you don’t have a better card for groceries, like one of the options above, the Savor will let you get a bit more than the standard 1%.

Runners-Up

  • Capital One SavorOne Rewards Credit Card
  • U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card
  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Card
  • Sam’s Club® Mastercard®

Best Pick For: Rotating Reward Categories

Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it® Cash Back is one of the best cash back credit cards available, thanks in large part to Discover’s unique Cashback Match.

Your 5% cash back rotating reward categories will switch every three months. They often include popular expenses like gas, groceries, rideshares like Uber and Lyft, and Amazon.com.

Runners-Up

  • Chase Freedom Flex℠
  • U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card

Best Pick For: Choosing Your Own Categories

U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card

A fairly unique entry in the U.S. Bank family of credit cards, the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card is one of very few cards that let you choose your own bonus cash back categories. It’s a good deal too, offering quite a bit of cash back and a wide variety of categories to choose from (some of which are rarely seen on credit cards).

Runners-Up

  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Card
  • Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best Pick For: Shopping at Amazon.com

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

A lot of people are spending tons of money at Amazon. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card gives you a way to save on every purchase you make from the online superstore.

Frequent Amazon shoppers can use this 5% cash back rate to save a tidy sum. A study from Consumer Intelligence Resource Partners reported that the average Prime member spent $1,400 per year at Amazon in 2018. That translates to $70 in cash back, enough for a nice gift. The gift card offer is a nice bonus too, and you won’t even need to meet a spending threshold to earn it.

The Prime card is made with metal, an unusual feature to find outside of premium credit cards (there are other metal credit cards with no annual fee, but not many).

To be eligible for this card you’ll need to have an Amazon Prime membership. If you’re not a Prime member you can apply for the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, which is less rewarding (3% back at Amazon) but there’s no fee involved.

If you don’t think you need Prime, you could always start with the regular Amazon Rewards card. Then, if you ever decide to get a Prime membership, you’ll automatically be upgraded to the Amazon Prime Rewards card. And likewise, if you ever cancel your Prime membership, you’ll be downgraded to the regular Amazon Rewards card.

Runners-Up

  • Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card
  • Amazon Prime Store Card
  • Discover it® Cash Back
  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Card
  • Amazon Business Prime American Express Card
  • Amazon Business American Express Card

Best Pick For: Students

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Student credit cards typically don’t offer the best rewards because they’re designed for people who are new to credit. But the Discover it® Student Cash Back has an excellent 5% cash back rate in rotating categories, just like the regular Discover it® Cash Back.

Along with that 5% cash back you’ll also get a $20 statement credit award for every year that you get a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a nice little bonus.

Runners-Up

  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
  • Capital One SavorOne Rewards for Students Credit Card
  • Capital One Quicksilver Rewards for Students Credit Card
  • Discover it® Student chrome
  • Journey Rewards for Students from Capital One
  • Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Best Pick For: Bad Credit

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card

So not only can you earn cash back, you’ll actually get to choose your own 3% category. That makes the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card stand out among secured cards, providing cardholders with a way to build credit and earn rewards at the same time.

If you have bad credit (a FICO score of 579 or less) you’ll have trouble qualifying for most credit cards, especially those with rewards programs. You will have some options, however.

Secured credit cards are designed for people with poor or limited credit. They require a refundable security deposit when you apply for them. The deposit then secures the account and becomes the credit (spending) limit.

You can use a secured card to improve your credit by building up a history of positive activity and on-time payments. When your credit is good enough you can close the card, get your deposit back and apply for a better unsecured card.

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Card is one of the best secured cards available, in our estimation. Secured cards usually have no rewards and few benefits, and sometimes come with high fees. But not only does this card have generally favorable terms, it also comes with a solid cash back program — the kind you might expect to find on an unsecured rewards card.

Bank of America will review your card account and overall credit every now and then. If you’ve been a responsible credit user, always making on-time payments, they may consider giving you back your security deposit and allowing you continued use of the card. BofA will be checking your overall credit with the credit bureaus, including how you use other credit cards, not just your usage of this card.

This is a great feature to have, and you won’t find it on every secured card. As long as you continue using it responsibly and maintaining good credit habits in general, you can expect to probably get your deposit back eventually and later on work your way up to an unsecured rewards card.

Runner-Up

  • Discover it® Secured

Best Pick For: Fair or Average Credit

Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards Credit Card

It’s pretty simple, but not bad for a flat-rate card — especially one made for fair or average credit. You’ll get the same amount of cash back wherever you shop, with no limit, and with no worry about bonus categories.

If you don’t have good credit, you may not be approved for some of the cards on this page. But the Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards Credit Card is one of the few rewards credit cards that are designed specifically for fair or average credit (a FICO credit score of around 580–669).

Use this card responsibly, always paying your credit card bills on time. We recommend paying your entire statement balance each billing period, to help your credit utilization. It will also help you stave off credit card debt because you won’t accrue interest charges on purchases with this strategy.

Runners-Up

  • Petal® 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa® Card
  • Journey Rewards for Students from Capital One
  • Capital One Spark 1% Classic for Business

Best Pick For: Limited or No Credit

Petal® 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa® Card

The Petal® 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa® Card is one of very few cards designed for limited credit that also provides some cash back. And it’s not just 1%, either; you can earn up to 1.5% simply by paying on time.

With limited or no credit it can be hard to get approved for that first credit card, but Petal gives you a way in. Petal will look at your “full financial picture” to determine your creditworthiness, which includes connecting to your bank account to check your transaction activity. If you already have some credit established, Petal will check it and may not need to connect to your bank account.

Runners-Up

  • Petal® 1 No Annual Fee Visa® Card
  • Jasper Cash Back Mastercard®

Best Pick For: Business Flat-Rate Cash Back

Capital One Spark 2% Cash Plus for Business

Looking for an easy way to earn some rewards for your business spending? Look no further.

The Capital One Spark 2% Cash Plus offers a simple, flat reward rate, with no worrying about which card to use for which purchases.

There’s no limit to the cash back you can earn, making this a good choice for businesses that spend a lot. Consider pairing this card with other business credit cards that do have bonus categories, and which typically come with spending limits. You can use those other cards when spending in their categories, and the Spark 2% Cash Plus for everything else.

Runners-Up

  • American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
  • Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select for Business
  • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
  • Bank of America® Business Advantage Unlimited Cash Rewards Card
  • Discover it® Business Card
  • Capital One Spark 1% Classic for Business

Best Pick For: Business Bonus Categories

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

A variety of useful business categories makes the Chase Ink Business Cash® Credit Card handy for businesses with typical office and local travel expenses.

Business owners have a nice variety of credit cards to choose from, and some – like this one – can be quite valuable.

Your 5% and 2% cash back categories have some spending limits (except for Lyft), so this card might not be suitable for bigger companies. Or you could always pair the Chase Ink Business Cash® with other business cards (like the runners up, or flat-rate cards) and split up your spending.

Runners-Up

  • Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • Amazon Business Prime American Express Card
  • Amazon Business American Express Card

Best Pick For: Professional Immigrants to the U.S.

Jasper Cash Back Mastercard®

Moving from overseas to the U.S.? The Jasper Cash Back Mastercard® might be designed for you.

It’s made for professionals who move to the U.S. but don’t yet have an established credit history in the U.S. This card gives you the leg up you need to start building credit and a handy payment option.

You can apply for this card up to 60 days before you arrive in the States, or check to see if you’re prequalified before then. You won’t need a credit history to be approved, and there’s no Social Security number (SSN) needed to apply. But before Jasper will activate the card, you will need to get an SSN to them within 60 days.

If you’ve been living in the U.S. for at least a year, you’ll need to undergo a credit check and provide an SSN when you apply.

This card is available to anyone, not just immigrants to the U.S., and it could be a good option for anyone just getting into the world of credit.

Runners-Up

  • Petal® 2 Cash Back, No Fees Visa® Card
  • Petal® 1 No Annual Fee Visa® Card
  • Discover it® Secured

Best Pick For: General Travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card makes a great first travel card.

It’s popular as an inexpensive and flexible way to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to a variety of travel loyalty programs. It has an excellent signup bonus that could be worth enough for a few trips, and it’s also known for being made out of metal.

To really maximize your point value you’ll need to transfer to a partner airline or hotel. That could give you upwards of 2 cents per point – that’s a cash back equivalent of 4% on travel and dining.

With travel cards like these, it generally pays to hold your points until you can redeem them at a good rate. Otherwise you should just pay with your card as normal to earn more points.

Runners-Up

  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
  • American Express® Green Card
  • PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Premium Travel Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is the better (and more expensive) cousin of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

It earns points at higher multiples for dining and travel, has a better redemption bonus, and comes with a variety of perks and services that can help you save money and access interesting experiences.

Generally speaking, the best way to use Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer them to a partner airline or hotel loyalty program. That could give you 2 cents per point or potentially quite a bit more, depending on how you use them.

Runners-Up

  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

Best Pick For: No Annual Fee

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is an excellent no-fee choice for general travel expenses, although hotels are its strong suit.

The Venture miles you earn with this card are typically worth 1 cent each, but Capital One recently introduced the ability to transfer your miles to a variety of airline partners.

Transfers could provide 2 cents per mile or more, which would give you a cash back equivalent of 2.5% for everything you buy.

Although this card’s base rewards are fairly small, it has valuable airline and hotel-related features that some travelers could find very useful.

Runners-Up

  • Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Card
  • Discover it® Miles

Best Pick For: Airport Lounge Access

The Platinum Card® from American Express

When it comes to lounge access, there’s really no beating The Platinum Card® from American Express and its Global Lounge Collection.

Quite a few cards offer the popular Priority Pass Select membership. The Platinum card grants access to that along with a host of other lounge brands, including Delta Sky Clubs and Amex’s own exclusive Centurion lounges (enrollment required for lounge access).

It’s worth noting that the Platinum card’s Priority Pass Select membership does not include non-lounge experiences, though they’re still offered through competing premium cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

The business version of this card provides the same excellent lounge access, though some other card features are different: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

Premium credit cards aren’t your only options for lounge access. Check out the full marketplace of credit cards that provide airport lounge access.

Normal redemptions for flights will yield 1 cent per point, which is a poor way to use your rewards. It would be better to save up for point transfers that could provide upwards of 2 cents per point.

At 2 cents per point you’d earn a cash back equivalent of 10% in the 5X categories. But those bonus categories are a bit limited compared to what you’ll get from some other premium travel cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Runners-Up

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
  • PenFed Pathfinder® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
  • UNFCU® Visa® Elite Card

Best Pick For: Business Travel Rewards

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

Frequent business travelers need to know about The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

Some may find the rewards a bit wanting, but the travel perks can’t be beat. You’ll get the best airport lounge access possible on a credit card, elite status at Marriott and Hilton to up your hotel game, and all the valuable protections and services you’d expect with a premier business travel card.

The annual fee may seem a bit high at first glance  – but consider everything you’ll get from the benefits, plus any rewards you earn. With enough travel each year you should be able to justify this card without much problem.

Runners-Up

  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
  • American Express® Business Gold Card
  • Capital One Spark 2X Miles for Business

Best Pick For: Co-Branded Hotel Rewards

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

You can get a lot out of the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card if you stay at Hilton properties several times per year. You’ll earn lots of points and there are a variety of hotel credits and perks to make your stays less expensive and more enjoyable.

This card has no shortage of points. But – a bit of a caveat here – Hilton points aren’t usually valued as highly as points with other hotel reward programs.

At a value of 0.4 – 1 cent per point, you’ll be earning a cash back equivalent of 13.6% – 34% at Hilton properties, and 2.8% – 7% in the three 7X categories.

Runners-Up

  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
  • IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Best Pick For: Co-Branded Airline Rewards

United Club℠ Infinite Card

The United Club℠ Infinite Card is the premier card for flying United. It has perks like access to the United Club lounge, free first and second checked bags, and priority treatment at the airport.

Runners-Up

  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
  • Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card
  • United℠ Explorer Card
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Priority Card
  • JetBlue Plus Card

Best Pick For: Student Travelers

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Student travelers actually have several good options including travel cards designed for people with limited credit histories.

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students may be the best all-around student card for travel, but you’ll need to plan your travel spending a bit in advance to get the most out of it. That’s because this card allows you to choose your 3% bonus category each month, and you’ll need to set it to Travel for the appropriate time frame before making purchases.

With this flexible card you can adjust your bonus category each month to fit your expected spending. So if you’re going on a trip beginning at the end of a month, for example, you could use the Travel category to get 3% back on your airfare and hotels, and even a car rental. Then, when the new month begins, you can switch your category to Gas to help fuel your adventure.

Runners-Up

  • Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
  • Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Best Pick For: Flat-Rate Rewards

Capital One Spark 2% Cash Plus for Business

Some people just want to earn cash back without bothering with bonus reward categories and complicated redemption options. If that sounds like you, you’ll probably love the Capital One Spark 2% Cash Plus.

Unlike other cards, which reward you more for certain types of purchases, the Spark 2% Cash Plus offers a flat rate for everything you buy. This can be good for businesses that spend a lot on a variety of purchases rather than particular spending categories. And there’s no limit to the cash back you can earn, unlike many other rewards cards.

This means that it’s a great option to pair with other rewards cards that do have bonus categories, like any of the others on our list.

Runners-Up

  • Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select for Business
  • Capital One Spark 2X Miles for Business
  • The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
  • American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card

Best Pick For: Business Travel Rewards

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is a premium travel rewards card, intended for small business owners who’ll travel and use the benefits enough to make it worth the annual fee.

You’ll have quite a few redemption options, including flights and gift cards. The most rewarding method will be for point transfers, because you may find deals that provide 2 cents per point or more. That would give you a cash back equivalent of 10% when earning at the 5X rate, which isn’t bad at all.

These travel rewards are a bit limited compared to some other premium cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. If you can spend enough on eligible travel purchases and make good use of the benefits each year, you’ll probably get your money’s worth with this card.

Runners-Up

  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
  • Capital One Spark 2X Miles for Business
  • Capital One Spark 1.5X Miles Select for Business

Best Pick For: Varied Business Spending

American Express® Business Gold Card

Sometimes you may not know what your business expenses will be from month to month. If that’s your situation, you may like a card with many different bonus categories, or categories that are flexible in some way.

The American Express® Business Gold Card is a rewarding card with bonus categories that will match the two types of spending your business has the most of each month.

This flexibility is a handy feature because you don’t have to bother changing the categories manually each month, like with some cards, and you don’t need to try to predict your upcoming business spending. You’ll just automatically get 4X points in the two categories you spent the most in. And you won’t have to work at it at all. 

Of course, the bonus categories should fit your business spending. So if this card doesn’t work for you, check out the runners up and their different categories.

Runners-Up

  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
  • Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best Pick For: Signup Bonus

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

Want to earn a lot of points fast? Signup bonuses are a great way to get there.

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card has an excellent offer that could be enough for quite a few flights or hotel stays.

The other Chase Ink Business cards have very good offers as well (they’re runners up below). Those offers get even better if you can move the points you earn to a different Chase card that allows point transfers.

Let’s say you got a bonus of 50,000 UR points with one of those other Ink cards. It would normally only be worth $500 at most – 1 cent per point. But if you move those points to another Chase card that allows point transfers, you could then transfer the points to a partner program to get a better value – at 2 cents per point. That puts the same bonus value at $1,000.

The Chase cards that allow point transfers are:

  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Runners-Up

  • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
  • Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
  • Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • Capital One Spark 2% Cash Plus for Business
  • Capital One Spark 2X Miles for Business

Best Pick For: No Annual Fee

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card

There are several business cards without annual fees, but the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card is likely to be the most rewarding for the most small businesses.

If your company spends a lot on office supplies and the other services listed, you’ll have few other options if you want to earn 5% cash back on them. That’s a pretty good deal but it’s limited to the first $25,000 you spend and so is the 2% rate. So if you’ll spend much more than that every year you may want to consider getting multiple versions of this card, or adding in other cards to the mix.

Combining the Chase Ink Business Cash® Card with other cards wouldn’t be an expensive strategy because it has no annual fee, so any rewards you earn are all profit as long as you don’t incur interest or fees. And you can avoid interest on purchases by simply paying your statement balance in full each month.

Runners-Up

  • Capital One Spark 1.5% Cash Select for Business
  • Capital One Spark 1.5X Miles Select for Business
  • The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express
  • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
  • Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best Pick For: Fair or Average Credit

Capital One Spark 1% Classic for Business

If your credit is in the fair or average range, which is a FICO score of about 580 – 669, you may have a hard time being approved for the more rewarding business cards that are available. But your credit isn’t bad enough that you have to get a secured business card either. You need a compromise option.

The Capital One Spark 1% Classic for Business fills that gap. It’s one of the few unsecured business cards that’s suited for average credit.

It’s not the best rewards program, but that’s part of the compromise. You can actually get a slightly better cash back rate than on some secured cards. The difference is you won’t need to put down that pesky security deposit to get credit the way you do for secured cards.

With a secured card, you might get a better rate but you wouldn’t earn much more than 1% cash back. Plus there might be an annual fee, so it might not be worth it.

No Personal Guarantee

Brex Card (paid daily)

Unlike most business cards, the Brex Card (paid daily) doesn’t require a personal guarantee and you won’t need a SSN to apply. You just need your business EIN to apply. Plus, a hard inquiry on your personal credit won’t be necessary.

The Brex Card must be paired with a Brex Cash money management account. Your card balance will be paid each day in full. The payment will come from your Brex Cash account.

Brex charge cards are not for sole proprietors. Instead they are for companies of any size, and are geared for tech savvy corporations and companies that are not personal liability companies.

Runners-Up

  • Brex Card (paid monthly)
  • Stripe Corporate Card

Best Pick For: Ecommerce Companies

Brex Card (paid monthly)

Available to venture-backed companies with at least $50,000 in the bank, the Brex Card (paid monthly) is designed for big spenders. Or, if you’re not venture-backed, the requirement goes up to $100,000. This card is not available to sole proprietors.

The benefits of this card are big. It has three valuable rewards programs and extensive  credits and discounts. Members can choose one of the three rewards programs. 

The credits and discounts include $5,000 in AWS credits, 40% off the first year of QuickBooks, a 5% rebate on Microsoft ad purchases, 25% off eligible Slack plans and many more.

What’s the Best Rewards Credit Card?

A number of “best” reward cards are available, because they are available in different types. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card – if you want travel rewards for no annual fee
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® – for high-end travel rewards and luxury perks
  • American Express® Gold Card – for great reward rates at restaurants and on groceries
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card – to earn more miles and access valuable benefits with United
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card – for enhanced membership and cost-saving benefits at Marriott Bonvoy
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express – for small business owners who travel

How Do Reward Credit Cards Work?

The basic process is:

  1. You make purchases and earn rewards, usually in the form of points or cash back.
  2. You redeem those rewards, usually for statement credits, travel expenses, or gift cards.

This benefit gives you a small discount on pretty much everything you buy with a credit card. You can check your rewards balance by logging in to your account online. Sometimes it appears on the credit card statement.

Some travel rewards cards also let you transfer your points to airline and hotel loyalty programs. You’ll get more from your credit card this way, because you can shop around for the best point value in bookings for travel.

What Types of Reward Credit Cards Are There?

Reward credit cards reward their members in several different ways:

  • Points – redeem points for credits, merchandise, gift cards, etc. Points can also be transferred to loyalty programs with partners
  • Cash back – a specific certain monetary percentage of each purchase gets tracked for later use
  • Store-specific points – redeemable with the retailer that provides the card
  • Airline miles – redeemable for free flights and discounts
  • Hotel-specific points – redeemable for hotels (for free!) and other discounts at hotels

Reward cards are available for a variety of purposes, too, including everyday spending or general travel. Some are out there for specific airlines or hotels, or for business owners. 

The variety of available options is getting bigger every day. Chances are, there’s a rewards card out there with your name on it (or at least it’s ready to get your name printed on it).

Expert Q&A

Q1) What is your preferred method of redeeming rewards on rewards credit cards?

Shelle Santana, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Bentley University and Visiting Scholar, Harvard Business School

Personally, I prefer credit card points because they are pretty fungible. I can redeem them for merchandise, travel, gift cards, and also transfer them to a number of hotel and airline partners. So I tend to consolidate my spend on a couple of credit cards that offer attractive rewards.

Jesse Lineberry, Instructor of Finance, Virginia Tech

There’s no one size fits all answer here. It’s generally best to match your rewards with the expenses you’ll be charging to the card. For instance, a family with young children may be well suited for a card that provides cash back at grocery stores or gas stations, whereas the frequent traveler may benefit from travel points, hotels, or airline miles. While travel cards often provide higher rewards per dollar spent, they may not be of value to everyone.

Ultimately, a cash back card is a safe bet for just about everyone and is probably the best place to start. I generally encourage folks to steer clear of store-specific cards unless it’s a store that accounts for a significant portion of the budget. These cards typically have less favorable terms than their cash back or travel counterparts, and only provide significant benefit at that store.

Russell Abratt, Professor of Marketing, George Mason University

I personally like a credit card that rewards me with miles, because I fly regularly to conferences overseas so I can accumulate miles regularly. This almost always forces me to use the same airline to accumulate the points and attain a higher level of card membership, which also gives me a higher level of rewards. This makes me loyal to that airline.

Q2) How can people make the most out of reward credit cards?

Shelle Santana

First, consumers should redeem their rewards! It’s pretty surprising how many consumers don’t actually redeem their rewards. They’re literally leaving money on the table. More specifically, make sure you know *how* to maximize your reward credit cards. 

Some offer a rotating set of “bonus” eligible categories, some offer point accelerators (e.g., 3x on dining) on categories, etc. Once you understand how the rewards are structured, then leverage them as much as possible. Third, set a goal for what you want to redeem for and work towards that. Be intentional.

Jesse Lineberry

Rewards cardholders can maximize rewards by matching the right card to each purchase. Many rewards cards rotate which categories they are providing additional rewards for at any given moment. For instance, many cash back cards provide 1% cash back on all purchases and 5% cash back on rotating categories such as gas stations or grocery stores. Ensuring you leverage the correct card for the correct purchases can maximize rewards.

Timing the application of a rewards card can be important as well. Many rewards cards, especially travel cards, provide significant sign-up bonuses when an account is opened. Generally, new account holders are given additional rewards for expenses accrued within a short period after the date the account is opened. This can be a huge advantage when paying for abnormally large expenses such as a vacation, wedding, honeymoon, or home renovation. 

Russell Abratt

Consumers should study their own spending habits. If they travel by car frequently for work or leisure, then gas reward cards may be beneficial. If you spend money on different things regularly, then a cash-back reward card may be the most useful. 

Of course, consumers could have multiple cards for the different types of rewards, but this would require a discipline of keeping a tight control of expenditure as all these credit cards need to be paid on a monthly basis. I recommend no more than two reward cards per person.

Q3) What are common mistakes that rewards credit cardholders make?

Shelle Santana

Not redeeming rewards is probably the biggest mistake. The second is letting points expire. Oftentimes you only need to make a nominal transaction in order to keep your account “active” and avoid point expiration. For example, a friend recently used points to send flowers to their mom in order to keep their account active and not lose the points.

Jesse Lineberry

The two largest mistakes rewards credit cardholders make are choosing a card that doesn’t fit their spending habits or spending unbudgeted money simply to earn points. Ideally, cardholders should use the credit card that maximizes rewards, net of any fees, on pre-planned expenses. Spending money simply to earn points, however, or simply because a card company is offering an extra reward bonus, is unwise.

Russell Abratt

Consumers need to try to pay off the card on a monthly basis so that interest is not accrued. Interest charges will offset the rewards earned and then the consumer will be gaining very little. One should also note that the interest charged on reward cards is usually higher than on standard cards. 

Card holders should also be mindful of their credit score. Many reward cards issuers require good credit scores for approval, and the interest charged could vary based on your credit scores. When looking at a credit card offer, you need to look at the credit limit and the grace period if there is one. Note that card terms and conditions can change at any time.

The consumer needs to manage their credit card spending as interest payments can be high and missing a payment may lead to lower credit scores which in turn, could lead to higher interest rates or the denial of credit in the future. Don’t get caught in a credit card trap. Your spending has to be paid for, so stick to a budget that you can afford. 

The card holder should lead an affordable lifestyle. Research suggests that consumers increase their spending through credit cards and therefore could get into unwanted debt. There is a need for the consumer to be a responsible credit card user. Always make an informed decision.

Q4) How do you evaluate rewards credit cards with so many options?

Shelle Santana

I think it’s very important for people to understand what’s important to them and what type of rewards they value. Some people really like cash-back because the conversion rate is very transparent and redemption, especially when it’s a statement credit, is very easy and it’s easy to see the value. 

There are other people who really love to travel, so a cash-back card won’t be as appealing to them (even though cash back cards can be a great value), because they want something else—plane tickets or hotel stays. Still others want a card that offers great dining and entertainment benefits. 

It all boils down to looking at the offering in terms of your lifestyle, how, when and where you spend money, and the type of reward that you will get the most enjoyment out of.

Answer by: Russell Abratt

  • First, consumers need to know what the different types of reward cards are available to them: co-branded credit cards for travel including hotels; general credit cards for travel rewards, cash-back rewards with bonus categories, and flat-rate cash reward cards.
  • Second, consumers should study their own spending habits to help them choose the reward type that will be most relevant to them.
  • Third, they should be mindful of their credit scores because a low credit score will mean that many reward cards may not be offered to them by the financial institution.
  • Forth, be fully aware of the interest rate charged by the bank or issuer as well as other terms in the credit card contract.
  • Fifth, you need to look at whether the card has an annual fee. If it has, will your expenditure yield rewards that will be larger than the annual fee?
  • Sixth, if you are going to use your card overseas, find out if there are foreign transaction fees. These can be high on some cards.
  • Finally, some credit cards offer a minimum spend bonus. This bonus could be beneficial to a big spender.

Overall, the consumer must be financially knowledgeable, be able to budget well and understand how reward credit cards work.

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